After reading, Caryl Churchill’s Far Away, I took a few minutes to figure out what, exactly, I could pull from the text to talk about. Overwhelmed by the absurdism and abstraction, I sought a review, thinking it may have some information I was missing concerning what the hell I just read. “‘Far Away’ Hits Close to Home”, by Clair P. Tan, addressed most of the concerns I had raised in my reading. No, there wasn’t any sort of historical reference. Yes, it is absurd.
Far Away is a minimal piece of absurdist satire, appropriating the disaffection of mass-propagated language in order to speak out against… Well, I’m not entirely sure. It could be war in general, but that seems too easy. Perhaps the current state of politics (Endless distractions/global military presense)? When even noise and gravity and rivers are getting brought into the fighting, the conflict moves beyond global and into the existential. What does it mean to be at war with dogs? Rivers? Countries?
And what of the love story? As understated as everything else in the play, what purpose does it serve? I can see it being a device used by Churchill to humanize the characters, giving the audience something to ground the play in. Indeed, there is a great deal of urgency introduced by Todd and Joan’s relationship (especially in the final scene with Joan… going AWOL?). Besides conflict (in a broad sense), this relationship is the only relatable thing in the play.
Churchill’s dystopic vision is the very essence of politically-minded speculative fiction. It presents a world which is distorted like a fun-house mirror, exaggerating some aspects and diminishing others. Through this particular looking-glass, the prospect of peace seems like a pipe dream; a declaration of war on cats may not be so very far off.